The first thing most people do when they hear the word ‘vision’ in a business context is yawn. That’s because most visions are vague, unclear, and, frankly nothing to get excited about. Generic vision statements do not help you to do a better job or do your job better. Well designed visions should be rallying cries for action, invention, inspiration and innovation. But what does such vision look like? How can you design one? In this blogpost I explain a new tool to design your vision step by step, a tool that was used by ING Bank for their new vision.
Vision as your compass
When you’ve formulated your point of view with an eye toward the future, it’s the vision that will guide you and your team toward the North Star. A clear vision brings focus and provides an anchor point for making bold strategic choices. It drives the search for new business models. As a rally cry, a clear and compelling vision provides direction in everything you and your colleagues do. Ask each other this question every day: does this action, activity, experiment, project get us closer to realizing our vision? If the answer is no, then don’t waste time, energy, and money on it. A vision is a compass that ensures your people and teams work on those things that matter to customers, clients, and other stakeholders. It will inspire, engage and activate people so they are able to do a better job.
A vision statement is the headline to a much richer story about your future. It is an anchor for the bigger story. While a vision statement is an aspirational description of what your team (or organization) would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid- or long-term future, to be truly useful (and powerful) a vision statement must point out not only where you want to go and when, but also how you’re going.
On one sheet of paper
Probably the greatest aspect of the vision canvas is that your entire vision, including actions, supports, opportunities, and challenges, will be on one sheet of paper – not a book! It’s simple to share and easy to translate into concrete guidelines that decision makers (and executors) need to get their jobs done. Even better, creating a visualization of the vision, based on this canvas, will help you spread the word.
Step 1: Articulate your vision statement. But keep it short.
A vision statement is the headline to a much richer story about your future. It is an anchor for the bigger story. While a vision statement is an aspirational description of what your team (or organization) would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid- or long-term future, to be truly useful (and powerful) a vision statement must point out not only where you want to go and when, but also how you’re going. When you really rock it, it is not about you but it is about how you help your customers.
Step 2: Define the key themes that support your vision. Make them clear.
Your vision does not stand alone. It is supported by relevant topics you want to clarify to your clients and employees. You want to move beyond the buss words like ‘customer centric’ or ‘integrated’ or ‘quality.’ Describe the themes into one or few words and make them stick.
Step 3: Proof where these examples of your vision show up. Show, don’t tell.
For each theme you will define clearly how these themes show up in your organization. How do you make the vision themes concrete and how will they inspire others?
Step 4: Define the 5 bold steps how to get there.
What are the 5 bold steps – not 8, not 10 – to get there? Clearly formulate the required steps so everyone understands.
Step 5: Validate and tell the story
In the last step, have this canvas validated with your teams and customers. What do they think? Is the vision statement clear? Is the right language used? Is there clarity about the themes and how they show up? When it is all put together and validated, you can tell a story starting with the vision and from the left hand side each theme and the supporting examples ending with the 5 bold steps.
The ING Bank Example
In my previous blogpost I described “How design thinking helped ING to get their strategic plan on 1 page.” So many asked HOW we did that. So here I like to show you their efforts step by step.
STEP 1: ING VISION STATEMENT HOW TO HELP THEIR CUSTOMERS
At the beginning of 2014, ING entered the final phase of restructuring. In March 2014, ING launched a new purpose and strategy to meet the challenges they face as a bank in a fast-changing world. ING wanted to put more focus on placing customers at the heart of what they do. ING defined their purpose: empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business. ING developed the Think Forward strategy to put that into practice.
STEP 2: THE KEY THEMES THAT SUPPORT ING VISION: THEIR CUSTOMER PROMISE
ING called their supporting vision themes their customer promise. You’ll see them written down as well in the visual.
Clear and Easy. Banking doesn’t have to be difficult and time consuming. Clear products, plain language, fair prices and simple processes save time and money.
Anytime, anywhere. We work to make our services available where our customers are. Banking should be possible anytime and anywhere.
Empower. The best financial decisions are informed decisions. Customers want relevant, up-to-date information at their fingertips. They need to understand their choices, and the implications, both today and for the future.
Keep getting better. Life and business are about moving forward. We will keep looking for new ways to make things better. With new ideas, new solutions, new ways to make things easier for our customers. In that way, we all stay a step ahead.
STEP 3: WHERE DOES THE CUSTOMER PROMISE SHOW UP?
Here the customer promises is detailed with examples so strategic understanding and alignment is created throughout the organisation. See the examples in the visual below here.
STEP 4: THE 5 BOLD STEPS HOW TO GET THERE.
ING called these Bold Steps the four strategic priorities that serve to create a differentiating customer experience. An overview of those steps here.
Bold Step 1: Earn the primary relationship. Before we can empower our customers, we have to know what they want. We will only get to know them well if we are their main banking partner. In Retail Banking our primary relationships are with customers who use ING as their main payment account and have at least one other product with us. In Commercial Banking, lending and transaction services are the anchor products that indicate primary client relationships.
Bold Step 2: Develop analytics skills to understand our customers better. The more we understand our customers, the more relevant are our services. Data-driven analytical tools empower our customers. We aim to help them make smarter decisions for themselves, based on better quality financial information. We use analytics to protect our customers from fraud and improve operational excellence. We are currently setting up a data science centre of excellence.
Bold Step 3: Increase the pace of innovation to serve changing customer needs. Rapid technological change, especially in mobile and payments systems, is shifting the competitive landscape. We are accelerating the innovation cycle to identify more good ideas and introduce useful improvements and technologies sooner. Successful innovation depends on progress on multiple fronts. We need a constant stream of ideas and reliable mechanisms to execute the best ideas well and we need to ensure fluid transition from best practice-sharing to common development. Deep customer understanding should propel innovation. We focus on ideas that make customers’ lives better.
Bold Step 4: Think beyond traditional banking to develop new services and business models. Our customers want banking services, but it is less obvious that they need banks to deliver them. We have to be prepared to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted. We are investing to stay relevant both now and in the future. We look beyond traditional banking to develop new services and business models.
A Strategy Update by ING BANK – CEO Ralph Hamers
“Since launching Think Forward in 2014, we have made excellent progress on many fronts,” said Ralph Hamers, CEO of ING. “We attracted over three million new customers, supported the economy by growing lending by around EUR 56 billion and strengthened our capital. We did that by focusing on being clear and easy, anytime, anywhere, and empowering customers to stay a step ahead in life and in business. We also promised to keep getting better and that is exactly what today’s steps are aimed at. Our recent successes allow us to do so from a position of strength.”
This 5 bold steps vision canvas is originally designed by David Sibbet and used for the design of the ING Bank vision. The tool is described in the book Design a Better Business and you can find the blog on the ING case study here.